How Naglee Moving & Storage uses data to understand costs, maximize capacity, and increase margins
Beau Roskow is the Vice President of Naglee Moving and Storage. He has over 20 years of experience working in various capacities at Walmart and Sam’s Club headquarters. His Corporate America background allowed him to have a fresh perspective when joining Naglee Moving, a United agent based in New York. They service residential, corporate, commercial, international, and fine art moves.
Beau’s an industry leader when it comes to understanding his business through data. Supermove recently sat down to chat with Beau about how he uses data to proactively make business decisions that have a very real positive impact on Naglee’s performance.
Q&A With Beau Roskow
What are some of the biggest challenges you face day to day in the moving business?
Quality labor is a big headwind right now for many industries, especially ours. And then that kind of dovetails right into talent development because we're in that intersection of new ways of working. So not only is this business difficult to teach in terms of the skill sets for movers and how to do it, but we're also kinda in this evolution of using technology to get better. So now it's a whole other skill set and experience that you’ve got to teach on top of that. It's a longer journey, but it will be shorter to transition later. And it'll be very transferable once we get some routines in. But this initial kind of crest is quite large.
Is digitization something that you’re still actively dealing with?
When I got here in 2015, we had zero technology. I mean, Atari would have been a breakthrough. It was crazy. We still have certain things that we have to use pen and paper for mainly because we are a sub-vendor of another company and that's how they do it. But most of Naglee’s processes have gone to an electronic format or a more digitized format.
How is data helping your moving business cope with these challenges?
I would say that data has provided facts.
This industry tends to rely on history and a lot of emotion. But that makes it hard to understand the high and low points because they don’t have good data. So once we really started using data to understand the cycles of the moving industry, we were able to start developing KPIs to be better “doctors”– the data allows us to predict what’s happening and read the symptoms rather than just having great autopsies after the fact.
So to be able to say, over a three-year span, here are the eight weekends that you can maximize your top capacity and pricing model. Here are the next three full weeks that historically, you’ve tended to run at 90% capacity. Here are the weeks that could be impacted based on what's going in in the marketplace. Here are the different revenue lines that will peak during different quarters.
So you can start to train and prepare your crews to understand that, ‘hey, during this quarter, we're going to be more focused on these three revenue lines’. So we can maximize our overall capacity and not just sit there and wait for the summer season to come and for everything to get crazy.
Has data helped you cope with seasonality in a different way?
I’m not saying things aren’t still crazy sometimes, but using data has allowed us to maximize capacity without burning out our folks. So we went to a capacity pricing model, and we keep a very strong pulse on our overall operations capacity, and what our min and max pricing look like.
It’s similar to the hotel business. As capacity starts to fill, we’re able to start widening our margins. But we are also still very customer-centric and we established a max price so that it doesn’t feel like we’re gouging or taking advantage of a consumer. And we also established a minimum that has helped fill some of the slower times by giving more value back to the customers in certain timeframes.
But without those day-to-day trends and what those capacity levels look like over a period of time, we would have been guessing.
So what type of data points are you talking about?
So I would say the lag data points are your financial data points. We use those as indicators to understand our three- and five-year averages. Then we look at our sales pipeline– where are the leads? Who's in the pipeline? And what conversations are we having? So we keep a pulse on how many of these leads are coming into the pipeline ahead of time, then we have a hard number to give to operations. We can say we have X number of trucks, we have X number of labor, and we have X number of specialty project people.
So now we know what our numbers are per day. Then we have daily and weekly huddles where we can discuss as a team where we’re at for the next week in terms of capacity. For example, if by our midweek huddle on Wednesday we only have three spots left this week, then we know we can book everything top dollar, no exceptions, no discounts.
Is there anything that moving companies should pay attention to but aren't?
In my experience, the industry has always been more focused on revenue and sales, and not necessarily on expense and cost management. I believe that that data is crucial because it's tough to make $1 and sometimes it's a lot easier to save $1.
Your average margin in the moving industry is maybe 5 cents to 10 cents. So for every dollar you're bringing in, best case you're making a dime. So you may struggle with sales revenues, but you can protect your profitability with cost management. However, a lot of companies don't know their numbers; they don't know the cost of their labor, material, and running their trucks.
What are you doing on the expense side to maximize profits?
We focus a lot on labor and making sure that we’ve got job descriptions and proper training, and that it's a two-way street. You need to have succession plans in your business so people can grow and make this industry their career. But to do that you have to be able to understand your minimum and maximum pay for movers. If you never calibrate your job descriptions, you're going to be all over the place and create issues in the long run. So that’s one area we’ve focused on.
The second one is paying attention to your material cost. Cardboard is one that has been one of the biggest fluctuating numbers because of the explosion of e-commerce and everybody else using cardboard. If you're not adjusting your prices as material prices go up, all of a sudden you're not making what you thought you were making, then you get into financial trouble downstream.
And then just overall overhead– cell phone providers, internet providers, hotels, all these little creeper costs that people don't pay attention to. Having a hotel network where you save $15 for each overnight stay might not sound like a lot but after a year of 300 moves, that adds up. The same goes for gas– if you can get a gas benefits card that gives you five or ten cents off a gallon, that adds up.
Again, this is where technology can help– it brings visibility to things that used to require a lot of digging, and I think people just didn't have the time to dig into their numbers. And that's why their costs creep up on them.
What tools are you using?
We use QuickBooks for our financial software. Supermove is our CRM. We use Podium which is a text marketing and customer review program. I'm also part of several associations– the New York State movers associations as well as the Tariff Association, and we’re part of United Van Lines which has regular newsletters about what's happening nationally. And then we're also a part of AMSA, which is the American Moving and Storage Association, that kind of really gives you a very high level of what the current trends and outliers are in the industry. So we have different vehicles to see the business at a macro and then take it all the way down to a local level.
If you were speaking to a new mover or new owner, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give them about data literacy?
So I would be a little broader initially. The first thing I would tell any movers is 'know your numbers'.
And knowing your numbers, I think could take different lenses. There are times you might need to know your revenue numbers a little bit more than your expense numbers, but you can't not look at your expenses. And vice versa.
Most movers have decided to take over a moving company because they work as a mover on the truck or in the truck and said, ‘Oh, I can do this’. They understand the art of the business, but they have no idea about the science of the business. So the numbers are the science, and operations and execution is the art.
I think the ones that do it really well are the ones that understand how to achieve harmony between the art and the science.